LITTLE ROCK — Former Republican U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson said Friday he plans to run for governor next year.
“I intend to be a candidate for governor in 2014,” Hutchinson told the Arkansas News Bureau. “My wife Susan and I are very excited about that opportunity to once again serve this great state.”
Hutchinson recently was named to head a National Rifle Association effort to put armed security guards in every school. He said that for now he remains focused on that project.
“I’ve got to devote my energies and time to that effort in the next couple of months, so that’s going to have the highest priority,” he said. “Once I’m able to complete that then I’ll be able to fully engage in the effort for governor.”
Hutchinson, 62, was first elected to represent Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District in 1996. He served until 2001, when he was appointed head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration by then-President George W. Bush.
While in Congress he served as one of the prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
He also has served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, and undersecretary for border and transportation security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Hutchinson was the GOP nominee for governor in 2006 but lost to Democrat Mike Beebe, who will be ineligible to seek a third term next year because of term limits. Hutchinson also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1986 and for attorney general in 1990.
Hutchinson estimated Friday that he would need to raise $5 million for a gubernatorial bid, or about $1.5 million more than he raised for his 2006 bid.
He said he wants to run because he loves Arkansas, loves public service and wants “the opportunity to work for better-paying jobs in this state and continued improvement in education — that Gov. Beebe, by the way, is doing a good job on.”
The 2014 governor’s race will be the first held after Republicans won majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time in modern Arkansas politics.
Hutchinson is the first Republican to announce as a candidate for governor. Republican Curtis Coleman has filed papers for an exploratory committee and has said he expects to make a decision about running this summer.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, the only Democrat who has announced plans to run, has raised more than $1 million for his campaign but suffered a potential setback in December when the attorney general, who is married, admitted to having an affair with a Hot Springs lawyer.
Others who are seen as potential candidates include Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, former Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and former state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, a Democrat.